The script could not have been written any better.
That India’s gruelling Test season will end in laps of Himalayas. 13 Tests in a season can be demanding at many levels – physically and emotionally.
The Indian players have done well to maintain the physical level. Except for odd injury here and there, there had not been a serious case barring Mohammed Shami who has so far missed half of the games. At mental level, it doesn’t look like the energy has gone down either, with Pune being an aberration.
However, several new facts have been unraveled.
England was considered the most threatening opposition and Australia the weakest. The opposite of that has happened.
England looked lethargic and Australia exhibited proactiveness, which is one the major reasons that they will enter the last Test with high chances of winning the series in India for first time since 2004.
Unlike England who were dependent on bits and pieces players, Australia have deployed specialists with only the number six being a multifaceted player.
The tall opening batsman Matt Renshaw has shown exemplary mental strength.
For a 20-year-old playing in India for the first time this quite a success story. In Pune, he played inside the line of ball to counter vicious turn.
In Bangalore he used his reach to avoid the lbw.
In Ranchi he took middle stump guard to tackle the rough.
The underlying point is how he has aborted the sweep shot which he practiced in lead up to the series. The sweep shot was never on due to unpredictable bounce.
He has exhibited the kind of caution where his more experienced partner, David Warner has failed miserably.
Steven Smith has deciphered the rationale behind him being ranked number one. As Renshaw mentioned he has shown path to his team.
Shaun Marsh has done no harm to his “best Australian player of spin bowling” tag. With Peter Handscomb he earned a draw for Australia when defeat looked inevitable.
Glenn Maxwell too let go of his ego to score a maiden test ton. Mathew Wade has not been overly poor behind the stumps, something that had been a worry before the series.
Throughout the series, the Australia bowling has looked penetrating.
England relied on line and length bowlers while Australia have gone in for extra pace.
Pat Cummins has filled the big shoes of the injured Mitchell Starc. By bowling off-stump channel Josh Hazlewood is doing what was expected out of him.
The biggest positive for Australia, however, is Steve O’Keefe.
In Pune his 12/60 routed India. In an era of T20 cricket, SOK skipped Big Bash to prepare for India tour. It bore fruits of consistency for Australia.
For Australia, all this have been possible because they have kept Kohli and Ashwin quiet.
On their day both players can single-handedly win matches for India. To Kohli, the plan has been to bowl full and wide – to lull him to play away from body.
India, however, have shown that they are more than just Kohli and Ashwin.
KL Rahul has scored four scores of fifty or more. A hundred has eluded him, and Dharamshala might just be the best place to end this drought of 100 – for which he is known for.
Pujara’s 92 set up the victory in Bangalore. In Ranchi, his double-century bailed India out of trouble. Saha has shown immense value as a wicketkeeper-batsman.
Though Ajinkya Rahane is yet to rediscover his midas touch but has played an innings which could well define the series.
Above all, the highlight of the series has been the evolution of Ravindra Jadeja.
Without giving up on his unerring accuracy, he has varied his game by adding subtle change of pace variations.
The dip and drift have become his friends, probably not as exemplary as Ravichandran Ashwin’s guile but still good enough to deceive opposition.
Jadeja’s growth also shows the impact that Anil Kumble has made in his very short stint with Indian team.
The fast bowlers have equally shared the donkey’s work with spinners.
Umesh Yadav has discovered his mojo. It looks there is a plan to which he relentlessly runs into to pursue. Nothing portrays it better than the wicket of Peter Handscomb in 1st innings at Bangalore.
After teasing Handscomb with length deliveries, Yadav bowled an in-swinging yorker.
In Dharamsala, Kohli’s men need to step up for one final time in the series.
India’s Test season has been all about individuals stepping up at right moment. If India can combat Australia at Dharamsala, then they can sit back and reflect on what has been a memorable home session.